Transforming Society: Revolution or Reform (Gen Ed 1055)





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James Simpson

'The Tower of Babel' painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder

Is revolution or reform the best way to transform society? To answer this question, we will explore the relation between utopian Enlightenment cultures and dystopian literary cultures in Western history. For each moment of rapid change, from Plato to the Communist and surveillance revolutions of the twentieth century, we will focus on two texts: one that promotes the enlightened and revolutionary utopian social blueprint; and one that offers an alternative, often dystopian model of transformation. You will come away from this course having a chronologically wide and intellectually serious immersion in 2500 years of European philosophical and literary history. Throughout, you are encouraged to think about what resources we use to imagine social transformation and to ask if revolution is in fact the best way to effect social transformation.

Register for Gen Ed 1055